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Equality Of Man And Woman Essay

Gender equality, also known as sexual equality, is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making; and the state of valuing different behaviors, aspirations and needs equally, regardless of gender.

Gender equality, equality between men and women, entails the concept that all human beings, both men and women, are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles and prejudices. Gender equality means that the different behaviour, aspirations and needs of women and men are considered, valued and favoured equally. It does not mean that women and men have to become the same, but that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female. Gender equity means fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs. This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities.

— ABC Of Women Worker's Rights And Gender Equality, ILO, 2000. p. 48.

Gender equality is the goal, while gender neutrality and gender equity are practices and ways of thinking that help in achieving the goal. Gender parity, which is used to measure gender balance in a given situation, can aid in achieving gender equality but is not the goal in and of itself. Gender equality is more than equal representation, it is strongly tied to women's rights, and often requires policy changes. As of 2017, the global movement for gender equality has not incorporated the proposition of genders besides women and men, or gender identities outside of the gender binary.

UNICEF says gender equality "means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections. It does not require that girls and boys, or women and men, be the same, or that they be treated exactly alike."[1]

On a global scale, achieving gender equality also requires eliminating harmful practices against women and girls, including sex trafficking, femicide, wartime sexual violence, and other oppression tactics. UNFPA stated that, "despite many international agreements affirming their human rights, women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. They have less access to property ownership, credit, training and employment. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence."[2]

As of 2017, gender equality is the fifth of seventeen sustainable development goals of the United Nations. Gender inequality is measured annually by the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Reports.

History[edit]

Christine de Pizan, an early advocate for gender equality, states in her 1405 book The Book of the City of Ladies that the oppression of women is founded on irrational prejudice, pointing out numerous advances in society probably created by women.[3]

Shakers[edit]

Main article: Shakers

The Shakers, an evangelical group, which practiced segregation of the sexes and strict celibacy, were early practitioners of gender equality. They branched off from a Quaker community in the north-west of England before emigrating to America in 1774. In America, the head of the Shakers' central ministry in 1788, Joseph Meacham, had a revelation that the sexes should be equal. He then brought Lucy Wright into the ministry as his female counterpart, and together they restructured the society to balance the rights of the sexes. Meacham and Wright established leadership teams where each elder, who dealt with the men's spiritual welfare, was partnered with an eldress, who did the same for women. Each deacon was partnered with a deaconess. Men had oversight of men; women had oversight of women. Women lived with women; men lived with men. In Shaker society, a woman did not have to be controlled or owned by any man. After Meacham's death in 1796, Wright became the head of the Shaker ministry until her death in 1821.

Shakers maintained the same pattern of gender-balanced leadership for more than 200 years. They also promoted equality by working together with other women's rights advocates. In 1859, Shaker Elder Frederick Evans stated their beliefs forcefully, writing that Shakers were "the first to disenthrall woman from the condition of vassalage to which all other religious systems (more or less) consign her, and to secure to her those just and equal rights with man that, by her similarity to him in organization and faculties, both God and nature would seem to demand".[4] Evans and his counterpart, Eldress Antoinette Doolittle, joined women's rights advocates on speakers' platforms throughout the northeastern U.S. in the 1870s. A visitor to the Shakers wrote in 1875:

Each sex works in its own appropriate sphere of action, there being a proper subordination, deference and respect of the female to the male in his order, and of the male to the female in her order [emphasis added], so that in any of these communities the zealous advocates of "women’s rights" may here find a practical realization of their ideal.[5]

The Shakers were more than a radical religious sect on the fringes of American society; they put equality of the sexes into practice. They demonstrated that equality was achievable and how to achieve it.[6]

In wider society, the movement towards gender equality began with the suffrage movement in Western cultures in the late-19th century, which sought to allow women to vote and hold elected office. This period also witnessed significant changes to women's property rights, particularly in relation to their marital status. (See for example, Married Women's Property Act 1882.)

Post-war era[edit]

Further information: Anti-discrimination laws

Further information: Timeline of women's legal rights (other than voting)

Since World War II, the women's liberation movement and feminism have created a general movement towards recognition of women's rights. The United Nations and other international agencies have adopted several conventions which promote gender equality. These conventions have not been uniformly adopted by all countries, and include:

  • The Convention against Discrimination in Education was adopted in 1960, and came into force in 1962 and 1968.
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. It has been described as an international bill of rights for women, which came into force on 3 September 1981.
  • The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, a human rights declaration adopted by consensus at the World Conference on Human Rights on 25 June 1993 in Vienna, Austria. Women's rights are addressed at para 18.[7]
  • The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993.
  • In 1994, the twenty-year Cairo Programme of Action was adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo. This non binding programme-of-action asserted that governments have a responsibility to meet individuals' reproductive needs, rather than demographic targets. As such, it called for family planning, reproductive rights services, and strategies to promote gender equality and stop violence against women.
  • Also in 1994, in the Americas, the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, known as the Convention of Belém do Pará, called for the end of violence and discrimination against women.[8]
  • At the end of the Fourth World Conference on Women, the UN adopted the Beijing Declaration on 15 September 1995 - a resolution adopted to promulgate a set of principles concerning gender equality.
  • The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSRC 1325), which was adopted on 31 October 2000, deals with the rights and protection of women and girls during and after armed conflicts.
  • The Maputo Protocol guarantees comprehensive rights to women, including the right to take part in the political process, to social and political equality with men, to control their reproductive health, and an end to female genital mutilation. It was adopted by the African Union in the form of a protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and came into force in 2005.
  • The EU directiveDirective 2002/73/EC - equal treatment of 23 September 2002 amending Council Directive 76/207/EEC on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions states that: "Harassment and sexual harassment within the meaning of this Directive shall be deemed to be discrimination on the grounds of sex and therefore prohibited."[9]
  • The Council of Europe's Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the first legally binding instrument in Europe in the field of violence against women,[10] came into force in 2014.
  • The Council of Europe's Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2017, which has five strategic objectives:[11]

Such legislation and affirmative action policies have been critical to bringing changes in societal attitudes. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey of citizens in 38 countries found that majorities in 37 of those 38 countries said that gender equality is at least "somewhat important," and a global median of 65% believe it is "very important" that women have the same rights as men.[12] Most occupations are now equally available to men and women, in many countries.[i]

Similarly, men are increasingly working in occupations which in previous generations had been considered women's work, such as nursing, cleaning and child care. In domestic situations, the role of Parenting or child rearing is more commonly shared or not as widely considered to be an exclusively female role, so that women may be free to pursue a career after childbirth. For further information, see Shared earning/shared parenting marriage.

Another manifestation of the change in social attitudes is the non-automatic taking by a woman of her husband's surname on marriage.[13]

A highly contentious issue relating to gender equality is the role of women in religiously orientated societies.[ii][iii] Some Christians or Muslims believe in Complementarianism, a view that holds that men and women have different but complementing roles. This view may be in opposition to the views and goals of gender equality.

In addition, there are also non-Western countries of low religiosity where the contention surrounding gender equality remains. In China, a cultural preference for a male child has resulted in a shortfall of women in the population. The feminist movement in Japan has made many strides which resulted in Rethe Gender Equality Bureau, but Japan still remains low in gender equality compared to other industrialized nations.

The notion of gender equality, and of its degree of achievement in a certain country, is very complex because there are countries that have a history of a high level of gender equality in certain areas of life but not in other areas.[iv][v] Indeed, there is a need for caution when categorizing countries by the level of gender equality that they have achieved.[14] According to Mala Htun and Laurel Weldon "gender policy is not one issue but many" and:[15]

When Costa Rica has a better maternity leave than the United States, and Latin American countries are quicker to adopt policies addressing violence against women than the Nordic countries, one at least ought to consider the possibility that fresh ways of grouping states would further the study of gender politics.

Not all beliefs relating to gender equality have been popularly adopted. For example, topfreedom, the right to be bare breasted in public, frequently applies only to males and has remained a marginal issue. Breastfeeding in public is now more commonly tolerated, especially in semi-private places such as restaurants.[16]

United Nations[edit]

Main article: Special measures for gender equality in the United Nations

It is the vision that men and women should be treated equally in social, economic and all other aspects of society, and to not be discriminated against on the basis of their gender.[vi] Gender equality is one of the objectives of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[17] World bodies have defined gender equality in terms of human rights, especially women's rights, and economic development.[18][19]

Gender biases[edit]

There has been criticism from some feminists towards the political discourse and policies employed in order to achieve the above items of "progress" in gender equality, with critics arguing that these gender equality strategies are superficial, in that they do not seek to challenge social structures of male domination, and only aim at improving the situation of women within the societal framework of subordination of women to men,[20] and that official public policies (such as sate policies or international bodies policies) are questionable, as they are applied in a patriarchal context, and are directly or indirectly controlled by agents of a system which is for the most part male.[21] One of the criticisms of the gender equality policies, in particular, those of the European Union, is that they disproportionately focus on policies integrating women in public life, but do not seek to genuinely address the deep private sphere oppression.[22]

A further criticism is that a focus on the situation of women in non-Western countries, while often ignoring the issues that exist in the West, is a form of imperialism and of reinforcing Western moral superiority; and a way of "othering" of domestic violence, by presenting it as something specific to outsiders - the "violent others" - and not to the allegedly progressive Western cultures.[23] These critics point out that women in Western countries often face similar problems, such as domestic violence and rape, as in other parts of the world.[24] They also cite the fact that women faced de jure legal discrimination until just a few decades ago; for instance, in some Western countries such as Switzerland, Greece, Spain, and France, women obtained equal rights in family law in the 1980s.[vii][viii][ix][x] Another criticism is that there is a selective public discourse with regard to different types of oppression of women, with some forms of violence such as honor killings (most common in certain geographic regions such as parts of Asia and North Africa) being frequently the object of public debate, while other forms of violence, such as the lenient punishment for crimes of passion across Latin America, do not receive the same attention in the West.[26][xi] It is also argued that the criticism of particular laws of many developing countries ignores the influence of colonialism on those legal systems.[xii] There has been controversy surrounding the concepts of Westernization and Europeanisation, due to their reminder of past colonialism,[27] and also due to the fact that some Western countries, such as Switzerland, have been themselves been very slow to give women legal rights.[28][29] There have also been objections to the way Western media presents women from various cultures creating stereotypes, such as that of 'submissive' Asian or Eastern European women, a stereotype closely connected to the mail order brides industry.[30] Such stereotypes are often blatantly untrue: for instance women in many Eastern European countries occupy a high professional status.[31][32] Feminists in many developing countries have been strongly opposed to the idea that women in those countries need to be 'saved' by the West.[33] There are questions on how exactly should gender equality be measured, and whether the West is indeed "best" at it: a study in 2010 found that among the top 20 countries on female graduates in the science fields at university level most countries were countries that were considered internationally to score very low on the position of women's rights, with the top 3 being Iran, Saudi Arabia and Oman, and only 5 European countries made it to that top: Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, Georgia and Greece.[34]

There has been criticism that international law, international courts, and universal gender neutral concepts of human rights are at best silent on many of the issues important to women and at worst male centered; considering the male person to be the default.[35] Excessive gender neutrality can worsen the situation of women, because the law assumes women are in the same position as men, ignoring the biological fact that in the process of reproduction and pregnancy there is no 'equality', and that apart from physical differences there are socially constructed limitations which assign a socially and culturally inferior position to women - a situation which requires a specific approach to women's rights, not merely a gender neutral one.[36] In a 1975 interview, Simone de Beauvoir talked about the negative reactions towards women's rights from the left that was supposed to be progressive and support social change, and also expressed skepticism about mainstream international organizations.[37]

Efforts to fight inequality[edit]

See also: Gender inequality

In 2010, the European Union opened the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) in Vilnius, Lithuania to promote gender equality and to fight sex discrimination. In 2015 the EU published the Gender Action Plan 2016–2020.[38]

Gender equality is part of the national curriculum in Great Britain and many other European countries. By presidential decree, the Republic of Kazakhstan created a Strategy for Gender Equality 2006–2016 to chart the subsequent decade of gender equality efforts.[39]Personal, Social and Health Education, religious studies and Language acquisition curricula tend to address gender equality issues as a very serious topic for discussion and analysis of its effect in society.

A large and growing body of research has shown how gender inequality undermines health and development. To overcome gender inequality the United Nations Population Fund states that, "Women's empowerment and gender equality requires strategic interventions at all levels of programming and policy-making. These levels include reproductive health, economic empowerment, educational empowerment and political empowerment."[40]

UNFPA says that "research has also demonstrated how working with men and boys as well as women and girls to promote gender equality contributes to achieving health and development outcomes."[40]

Health and safety[edit]

Further information: Gender disparities in health

Social constructs of gender (that is, cultural ideals of socially acceptable masculinity and femininity) often have a negative effect on health. The World Health Organization cites the example of women not being allowed to travel alone outside the home (to go to the hospital), and women being prevented by cultural norms to ask their husbands to use a condom, in cultures which simultaneously encourage male promiscuity, as social norms that harm women's health. Teenage boys suffering accidents due to social expectations of impressing their peers through risk taking, and men dying at much higher rate from lung cancer due to smoking, in cultures which link smoking to masculinity, are cited by the WHO as examples of gender norms negatively affecting men's health.[41] The World Health Organization has also stated that there is a strong connection between gender socialization and transmission and lack of adequate management of HIV/AIDS.[42]

Violence against women[edit]

Main article: Violence against women

Violence against women is a technical term used to collectively refer to violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against women.[xiii] This type of violence is gender-based, meaning that the acts of violence are committed against women expressly because they are women, or as a result of patriarchal gender constructs.[xiv] Violence and mistreatment of women in marriage has come to international attention during the past decades. This includes both violence committed inside marriage (domestic violence) as well as violence related to marriage customs and traditions (such as dowry, bride price, forced marriage and child marriage).

According to some theories, violence against women is often caused by the acceptance of violence by various cultural groups as a means of conflict resolution within intimate relationships. Studies on Intimate partner violence victimization among ethnic minorities in the United Studies have consistently revealed that immigrants are a high-risk group for intimate violence.[43][44]

In countries where gang murders, armed kidnappings, civil unrest, and other similar acts are rare, the vast majority of murdered women are killed by partners/ex-partners.[xv] By contrast, in countries with a high level of organized criminal activity and gang violence, murders of women are more likely to occur in a public sphere, often in a general climate of indifference and impunity.[45] In addition, many countries do not have adequate comprehensive data collection on such murders, aggravating the problem.[45]

In some parts of the world, various forms of violence against women are tolerated and accepted as parts of everyday life.[xvi]

In most countries, it is only in more recent decades that domestic violence against women has received significant legal attention. The Istanbul Convention acknowledges the long tradition of European countries of ignoring this form of violence.[xvii][xviii]

In some cultures, acts of violence against women are seen as crimes against the male 'owners' of the woman, such as husband, father or male relatives, rather the woman herself. This leads to practices where men inflict violence upon women in order to get revenge on male members of the women's family.[46] Such practices include payback rape, a form of rape specific to certain cultures, particularly the

A generic symbol for gender equality

Life of the Diligent Shaker, Shaker Historical Society

The Ritual Dance of the Shakers, Shaker Historical Society

The Shakers harvesting their famous herbs

Anti-FGM road sign, Bakau, Gambia, 2005

After thousands of years of male dominance, we now stand at the beginning of the feminine era, when women will rise to their appropriate prominence, and the entire world will recognize the harmony between man and woman.  — The Rebbe

A couple who was having communication problems came to see the Rebbe. The woman said that her husband was consumed with his work, and that when he finally found time to speak with her, he criticized her and ordered her around. The husband said that his wife had no respect for him and didn’t listen to any of his suggestions.

“Why do you think your wife should listen to you?” the Rebbe asked. “Because a woman must listen to her husband,” he replied.
“But why should a woman listen to her husband?” the Rebbe asked. “Because the man is the master of the house.”

“No,” said the Rebbe. “The first thing that you as a man must follow is the edict that ‘a man should honor his wife more than he does himself.’ And then the righteous woman will have a husband she can respect and love. If the man does not fulfill his role, then it is the woman who must respectfully bring it to his attention.”

Contemporary society is just beginning to delve into the true distinctions between men and women. Besides the obvious physiological differences, there are also differences in the way men and women think, speak, and behave.

In order to understand the essential nature of man and woman, we must do away with human subjectivity and look through G-d’s eyes. Every human being, man and woman, was created for the same purpose — to fuse body and soul in order to make themselves and their world a better and holier place. In their service of G-d, there is absolutely no difference between a man and a woman; the only difference is in the way that service manifests itself.

What are the differences between men and women?

Man and woman represent two forms of divine energy; they are the male and female elements of a single soul.

G-d is neither masculine nor feminine, but has two forms of emanation: the masculine form, which is more aggressive, and the feminine form, which is more subtle. For a human being to lead a total life, he or she must have both forms of energy: the power of strength and the power of subtlety; the power of giving and the power of receiving. Ideally, these energies are merged seamlessly.

Men are physically stronger. By nature, they are usually more aggressive and externally oriented. In contrast, a woman usually embodies the ideal of inner dignity. Some people confuse such subtlety with weakness; in truth, it is stronger than the most aggressive physical force imaginable. True human dignity does not shout; it is a strong, steady voice that speaks from within. The nature of a woman, while subtle, is not weak. And the nature of a man, while aggressive, is not brutish. For man and woman to be complete, they must each possess both energies.

The answer is not for men and women to try to be alike. All men and women must be themselves, realizing that G-d has given each of us unique abilities with which to pursue our goals, and that our primary responsibility is to take full advantage of those abilities.

What is true liberation for both sexes?

Though feminism rightfully calls for the end of male domination and abuse, and for equal rights for women, it is vital to get to the root of the distortion — that our focus in life, as man or woman, must not be simply to satisfy our own ego or needs, but to serve G-d. True women’s liberation does not mean merely seeking equality within a masculine world, but liberating the divine feminine aspects of a woman’s personality and using them for the benefit of humankind.

After so many years of male dominance, we are standing at the threshold of a true feminine era. It is time now for the woman to rise to her true prominence, when the subtle power of the feminine energy is truly allowed to nourish the overt power of the masculine energy. We have already proven that we can use our strength to slay the demons around us; let us now learn to nurture the G-dliness within.

ACTION

Men and women must realize their respective equal roles and strive to complement each other in their shared struggle to improve life. In order to correct the abuse of male dominance, men must concentrate on using their dominant qualities for the good. They must use their strength to protect and preserve the feminine character, helping women realize their true potential in revealing  G-dliness, which the world so desperately needs today.

Learn about what it means to be a man or a woman, about masculine and feminine energy. Learn to live up to your potential, to balance these energies to lead a productive and meaningful life — a G-dly life. And finally, learn to appreciate and respect your male or female counterpart.

Buy the best-seller, Toward a Meaningful Life starting at $13.99, from our MLC Shop, Amazon or Kindle. Or sign up for our weekly email to receive a dose of meaning every Thursday night.

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